Another attack on science

Unsurprisingly, scientists are witnessing more attacks on their disciplines by religious fundamentalists who will never accept the fact that science is more suitable to explain the world than still-to-be-proven dogmas. This time, someone called Edward Feser, a member of the right-wing, catholic Witherspoon Institute, angrily attacks Lawrence Krauss, an astrophysicist – and a well-known, strident atheist as well. Feser implies that Krauss – and thereby science – should shut up because science could not answer some questions about our world whereas philosophy, according to Feser, could.

As surprising as it might sound, I fully agree with Feser when he states that science has no answer to why-related questions. Indeed, why there is an universe rather than nothing, why life has emerged on Earth despite the extremely low probability for this to occur, and whether there is a purpose with this universe are philosophical issues. Science can explain how things work, but definitely not why. Still, I always get on my guard when I hear such people arguing against science.

First because science has deeply contributed to the improvement of mankind’s condition. Even if it has no jurisdiction on moral or philosophical issues, science has allowed us to be healthier, to live longer, to improve our living standards, and to get rid of religious nonsense which was more harmful than beneficent, such as superstition leading to witch hunts, crusades, or the Inquisition – which some religious people never forgave it for. Second, because philosophical concepts might be vague and lead to as many possible interpretations as there are human beings, so philosophy is – very – useful, but it cannot bring other kinds of answers than personal to untestable concepts. Thus, philosophy has no precedence over science. For those reasons, this article has filled me with unease.

Indeed, this is an attack from people who try to influence their country’s political and cultural life. Any dogma has to come up with very strong evidence speaking for it before being entitled to impose itself on others’ lives. The Dover trial on Intelligent Design has shown that strongly religiously motivated people don’t embarrass themselves with moral issues when it comes to promoting their own beliefs.

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2 thoughts on “Another attack on science

  1. Science, if actually performed as advertised – is resilient to attack. Bad science, and there is a ton of it, requires challenge, because that is what science is all about. Theories are supposed to be challenged.

    There have been several studies that show many, and in some disciplines, the majority of peer reviewed findings to be unrepeatable and largely driven by a callous greed to publish a success rather than the truth. Failed theories don’t attract funding. Peer review is often an echo chamber instead of a challenge.

    What you call an attack on science looks more like someone attacking a scientist’s outspoken and unwanted views about questions his “science” isn’t even asking – a perfectly legitimate thing to do in our open society. People are going to get sick of this whining by scientists who stick their nose into a religious or philosophical issue and use the circular argument “I’m right because it’s science.”

    Cosmologists present tons of ideas: multiverses, multiple dimensions and worm holes – stuff we can’t verify that sounds more like a brain fart than science. Yet real observations like large scale filaments connecting galaxies that have no “gravity” explanation remain unexplained.

    If the argument is about creation vs. Big Bang, then a theory that, by its own admission can’t locate 96% of matter and energy in the universe, is not any better than one that says God did it.

    Big Bang Theory is on it’s heels because the things it predicts can’t be found. Instead every new observation from a multitude of observatories results in exclamations of surprise by confounded astronomers. If they have things figured out, why are they surprised?

    Science in some disciplines is based on assumptions made long ago that have never been verified, but have been adopted as dogma over the years. Cosmological redshift is one – in spite of dozens of near galaxies that obviously contain high redshift quasars (documented with photographic evidence) mainstream science refuses to consider alternate theories of redshift simply because it would collapse their pet theories.

    Some of these assumptions will be found to be wrong, and it will be the challengers who discover it. And guess what – that’s science.

    • Just read the title of the article from Feser: “Scientists Should Tell Lawrence Krauss to Shut Up Already”. Is that what you call to challenge theories? To me, it rather sounds like ordering someone not to challenge a particular point or area just because he thinks science does not belong here. That is what surprises me the most in your comment: first you say that theories must be challenged, but then you refuse science the right to investigate specific areas.

      Besides, I noticed that religious bigots “challenge” only theories which do not suit their own doctrine. To them, everything incompatible with the Bible, the Qu’ran or anything of the kind is “bad science”. For instance, they claim to have found “evidence” against evolution or problems with Darwin’s theory – without naming them -, but totally disregard the fossil record, the geographical distribution, the genetics etc… In the same vein, your arguments, like “There have been several studies that show many, and in some disciplines, the majority of peer reviewed findings to be unrepeatable and largely driven by a callous greed to publish a success rather than the truth” or “Big Bang Theory is on it’s heels because the things it predicts can’t be found. Instead every new observation from a multitude of observatories results in exclamations of surprise by confounded astronomers. If they have things figured out, why are they surprised?”, sound more like gratuitious affirmations than statements backed up by evidence. Can you name a couple of examples? As for the Big Bang, there are several elements which do not prove it, but which support the theory, see here. So it much more solid than just to say “God did it”. Then again, if you have tangible elements which points towards the contrary, please show some references here.

      A last point: the fact that a theory does not explain certain things does not invalidate it, it just says that the theory is incomplete. And rejecting plausible hypotheses is something scientists can’t afford, because they always pay it cash in the long run. If we had rejected the theory of evolution until now, most of the medicine we use today would not be available.

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